David R. Henderson  

Did Obama Break His Promise?

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Jared Bernstein's Sense of Time

On a number of occasions before ObamaCare passed in late March 2010, President Obama promised that if you like your current health insurance plan, you can keep it. Now Jared Bernstein, formerly Joe Biden's chief economist, argues that Obama didn't mean what he said but that everyone should have known that.

Jared's argument? It has two parts.

First, he writes:

However, as clearly stated at the time, if such a plan were to significantly change in ways that are inconsistent with consumer protections under the ACA, it would lose its grandfathered status.

Second, he writes:
So, did the President misspeak? In a way, sure. He should have said: "If you like your plan and it doesn't get significantly worse such that it's out of sync with what we're trying to do here, you can keep it."

And, in fact, such nuances were clear at the time and not buried in the weeds but discussed in the open. Not much to see here folks...move along.


This is an argument? Does Bernstein think people would have thought the same about ObamaCare had they been told that if their health insurance plans were "out of sync" with what Obama wanted, they couldn't keep them?

Imagine how different Obama's rhetorical flourish would have been had he said:

And folks, the opponents of my plan are trying to scare you. But if you like your health insurance the way it is, and if I like your health insurance the way it is, then you can keep it.

That would have led to greater opposition. And remember that the law passed in the House of Representatives by a slender margin.

Moroever, in two places in his post, Bernstein talks about what was known "at the time." At what time? While the legislation was being debated? No. Both of his references are to times after the legislation had passed. I purposely kept Bernstein's link to a New York Times article by Robert Pear in which Pear discusses the ObamaCare regulations issued over two and a half months after ObamaCare passed.

In other words, by Bernstein's own admission, these "nuances" were "in the open" when it was too late to oppose the legislation.


Comments and Sharing





COMMENTS (84 to date)
Charley Hooper writes:

Obama committed an error of omission and he misled the American public. He had plenty of opportunities to set the record straight, but never did.

The true test of his message is how it was received. What percent of Americans though he meant what he said? What percent of Americans thought he meant something like what Bernstein said? 99% versus 1%?

Why didn't Bernstein just go for the more direct argument and say that no one believes anything politicians say, so why should they have believed Obama?

JKB writes:

"...argues that Obama didn't mean what he said but that everyone should have known that."

Didn't they use that same excuse when Obama almost dragged us into a war? Something about red lines.

Do they think they are helping by making Obama seem clueless, unserious and dissembling?

And a lot of people who paid attention did know he was lying and said so. But he wasn't speaking for their benefit, he was speaking to the people who would take his words at face value. Critical thought is increasingly rare. Most university programs fail to train their students in it these days.

A couple decades ago, I read a book on mental development and speaking. I've forgotten the name. The author pointed out that the 6-yr old mind was black and white. It was also the level that politicians spoke at to capture the majority of the public. Would a 6-yr old have known Obama didn't mean it? Or would they have trusted him on his word?

Ross Levatter writes:

Bernstein's "not much to see here" regarding "If you like your plan and it doesn't get significantly worse such that it's out of sync with what we're trying to do here, you can keep it" would be a more reasonable argument if "such nuances" affected relatively few plans. But it appears now upwards of 80% of all individual plans will be affected, millions of people. Bernstein thus becomes an apologist at the level of Baghdad Bob rather than a nuanced economist.

ThomasH writes:

Could anyone have believed at any point that you could do anything non-trivial to health insurance finance and it not have a negative effect on someone somewhere? The point of keeping your insurance if you like it is to say that the American Heitage-Romneycare flavor of health inurance reform was the most like the status quo of the kinds being considered. I'm waiting to hear from someone who supported ACA that would have opposed it "if only I'd known!"

Mark Brady writes:

Was the possibility that people wouldn't be able to keep their existing policies aired at the time? And if not, why not? In other words, why didn't the opponents of the legislation make this point at the time it was being debated in Congress?

Erik writes:

The only problem I see with this analysis of Bernstein's piece is this: "In other words, by Bernstein's own admission, these 'nuances' were 'in the open' when it was too late to oppose the legislation." Too late to oppose it? 40 delay/defund/repeal votes, a presidential election, and a government shutdown later, I wouldn't say the opposition boat sailed the day the legislation passed.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Mark Brady,
Many of us did make this point. But we didn't have the megaphone that Obama had. So most people heard his lie, not our refutation.

Steve J writes:

The grandfather clause says the plans have to change to become ineligible for grandfathering. How did all these plans change that made them ineligible for grandfathering?

Daniel Kuehn writes:

I've been shocked at how many people said he broke his promise. At the time it was quite clear he was responding to claims that government was trying to socialize health care - not that Obama was guaranteeing that all plans, no matter how much they contradicted the legislation, would be available to you forever and ever and ever.

I only heard that argument in the last couple weeks. Nobody seemed to think that was what he was saying at the time.

I'm with Bernstein and I'm still befuddled over the recent outcry.

Daniel Kuehn writes:

David -
You said that people would not be able to keep their insurance if it wasn't consistent with the new regulations, yes.

But were you really under the impression at the time that Obama was saying that policies not consistent with ACA were just fine? Was anyone thinking that or saying that? Not that I can recall. That's really the question.

The context of the quote was people crying "socialist". Bernstein's assessment is exactly correct as far as I can tell.

MattB writes:

The context was that people thinking critically about the impact of changes brought on by the ACA would introduce actuarial challenges to companies providing a number of plans. Yes people were crying socialist, but the rational concern at the tine was that many plans would not meet the requirements of ACA and would be canceled or would have to be modified at increased costs, or incentives may lead some employers to drop coverage. Increased costs, cancellations, or employer effects were the issue. I thought all along that the assertion of 'keeping your plan' was incredulous. I never believed it and could not believe a president would say something like that without qualification given the complexity of this bill. Any fool would know that such a complicated bill would have drastic impacts on working Americans. He was trying to mask the rather regressive impacts of his 'progressive' law. Now it has become a fatal gaffe .

Lauren writes:

I'd be interested to know if there is one single example of anyone anywhere whose existing policy has not changed in a way that either significantly raises his rates or significantly reduces his coverage. There is no way that everyone with an existing policy could have been expected to somehow intuit that a statement like "You can keep your existing insurance" meant that every single policy would fundamentally change.

It's certainly a lie if there is no one to whom the statement applied. I have yet to hear of one single example of anyone to whom the statement applied.

Every single person I know personally who currently has an insurance policy, either through an employer, as a business owner, or individually, has either been informed there will be a large rate increase or has been reassigned (or had all his employees reassigned) to a so-called "comparable" policy that in the fine print involves a coverage reduction so substantial as to make it untenable to argue that it is keeping the same policy. Evidently no existing insurance policies anywhere are in accord with the new ACA standards. One could argue I've polled only a small sample, though--perhaps a function of the small number of states my friends and I live in or perhaps I have a bias in folks who become my friends. But for the record, I've polled a lot of people at this point.

Well, actually, I haven't polled my friends who are government employees. Perhaps they get to keep their existing policies. Not to be cynical or anything.

Thomas Boyle writes:

Daniel Kuehn,

Yes, when the President said "if you like your policy, you can keep it", I thought that's what he meant. I did not understand that there was a footnote saying "as long as your policy complies with the requirements of the ACA", in part because I knew that states already have minimum requirements for what constitutes health insurance and I assumed that those would more than cover a national minimum requirement. Perhaps I should have been more insightful, and realized that the President knowingly did not mean what he said, that when the President speaks he assumes that you have detailed policy knowledge of the exceptions intended but omitted - but I did not.

Interestingly, with this story in the headlines yesterday, it is also our week for benefits open enrollment at work. On the company benefits site I learned that we could not keep the plan we've had because... it would qualify as a "cadillac plan" under ACA and be subject to the excise tax. So, it appears that many of us who get our insurance through work can't keep it either.

Daniel Kuehn writes:

Thomas Boyle -
Well let's be clear, we're BOTH adding footnotes. You're adding the footnote that he will abrogate everything about the law, which I find absurd, and I am adding the footnote that this is a statement in the context of the accusations made against him and the rest of the law (which you find absurd... I'm not quite sure why).

The plain language of the statement is perfectly consistent with both our readings of it. Your task is to convince me or anyone else that a reasonable person thought Obama was tossing the law out the window with that statement.

Proving that is a tall order, to say the least.

It's an extremely suspect claim on your part for me at least. All these mandates we were talking about in 2009 and 2010 and not one whiff of a mandate that employers cannot cancel existing plans that are not in conformity with the law.

But that's what you're asking me to believe everyone thought was said. I don't buy it.

RPLong writes:

I think Charley Hooper cut the chase in his third paragraph. Nobody believes what any politician says anymore.

Part of the reason we don't is because of pundits like Bernstein, and excuses like the ones Daniel Kuehn is making. I don't think people realize how completely they poison the well when they perform these kinds of mental gymnastics.

What do we achieve by creating a rationale that Obama could have meant any imaginable thing when he said what he said? The excuses we give obliterate our ability to distinguish truth from lies. Does that really help us here?

Now look where we are: Politicians cannot even be evaluated on their words. Who on Earth wants to hold the kind of cynicism required to prop up that kind of political theater.

It's depressing.

John Strong writes:

The political calculus was clearly: say whatever, to sooth peoples' nerves, and once it has passed, inertia will be on our side.

Daniel Kuehn writes:

RPLong -

I don't believe politicians either. Obama is misleading on plenty - just look at the NSA fiasco. I just find these complaints about this particular claim extremely implausible. I don't "make excuses" for politicians. I call things how I see them, just as I assume you do.

The whole reason I see things this way is because it's arguments like Thomas Boyle's that require me to bend over backwards just to believe it. I prefer more straightforward answers.

re: "Now look where we are: Politicians cannot even be evaluated on their words. Who on Earth wants to hold the kind of cynicism required to prop up that kind of political theater."

That's always been the case though. I don't think this is new. This gets back to Jefferson - an informed citizenry that discusses this stuff.

john W. King writes:

President Obama's comments with respect to "keeping your existing healthcare" are simple declarative statements which he has categorically repeated on at least nine occasions. It is patently disengenuous for Berstein or anyone else to assert that we should have known the President meant anything other than what he said. If the now existing healthcare law contravenes those statements, the President should none the less be taken at his word and held to account for his utterances, as well as for the abysmally bad legislation which bears his name.

Bunter writes:

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magilson writes:

Daniel,

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/06/15/obama-ama-speech-full-tex_n_215699.html

You state that you believe his context was a refutation of the claim that the PPACA is "socialized" medicine.

That's what I've come to talk about today. We know the moment is right for health care reform. We know this is an historic opportunity we've never seen before and may not see again. But we also know that there are those who will try and scuttle this opportunity no matter what - who will use the same scare tactics and fear-mongering that's worked in the past. They'll give dire warnings about socialized medicine and government takeovers; long lines and rationed care; decisions made by bureaucrats and not doctors. We've heard it all before - and because these fear tactics have worked, things have kept getting worse.

The next paragraph is the oft debated:

So let me begin by saying this: I know that there are millions of Americans who are content with their health care coverage - they like their plan and they value their relationship with their doctor. And that means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what. My view is that health care reform should be guided by a simple principle: fix what's broken and build on what works.

What you are trying to do, Daniel, is break apart in some ways and conjoin in others pieces of a speech that, despite popular rhetoric about the President's speeches, is structured incredibly poorly. If it's your position that the President meant this second paragraph to refute the claim of socialized medicine then it stands to reason that the President believes that his audience believes (a speech given to the AMA) that socialized medicine means, again given the content of the second paragraph you believe relates to the prior, that it is a removal of choice for a healthcare consumer in seeking the services of a medical expert or practitioner.

And the second bit is harder because President Obama constantly interchanges healthcare plan and health insurance. It becomes difficult to know exactly what he means. But I understand it to mean my health insurance plan. So it would seem he is saying, to someone like me with my particular interpretation, that I can keep my health insurance plan, just as it exists *now* (2009). How that relates to socializing medicine is a bit unclear and he never bothered to address it in any real way in any of his speeches ever. But again let's consider his audience in this case is the ACA. Did he literally mean health care as in health practices? I don't think so. He said plan. And he referred to it as being a thing that can be "taken away". He could possibly mean that some practices could be banned or priced out of practicality. But again he said plan. And that really sounds like insurance plan to a simpleton like myself.

And as far as your remembering the zeitgeist differently than pretty much everyone who is talking about it right now that hasn't readily shown themselves to be an appologist for the PPACA it's really quite simple. Perform some searches to articles and blogs of that time frame. You'll find, quite easily, that actually a LOT of people were discussing this in exactly the manner we are discussing it now. And let's say you continue to hum loudly and squeeze your mind shut. Consider that the way people are discussing it now suggests that WAS the impression they got from the speech. You might just have to admit that perhaps, even if the President had not intended to suggest that insurance companies would never need to drop existing plans out of compliance concerns or practical business need due to the PPACA, that's the way it came off.

I'm not suggesting President Obama is the clear-worded, speech God that so many people claim of him (I don't think he ever invited that claim). And I'm not suggesting you believe him to be that gifted at conveying information. What I am suggesting is that what you got from that speech is minority opinion of almost everyone. And if you can somehow accept that then the implication is that the President and his faithful followers and those who enact policy based on the PPACA should consider that they're now "doing something" to a vast majority of Americans that they did not want done.

What should result from that realization is far, far more interesting and important than trying to explain to you that what you think he said means NOTHING compared to what it meant to everyone that is not you.

[comment resubmitted with edit--Econlib Ed.]

Mark writes:

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Gerry writes:

I think everyone agrees that what the president said mislead a large percentage of those who heard him. Either Obama:

- was uninformed and, off the cuff, told the American people what he thought he wanted them to hear. (That's hard to believe given the number of times he repeated these statements)
- was misinformed and passed that information to the American people (see above, "that's hard to believe...")
- was informed and in turn misinformed the American people

This should rank up there with a previous Republican president's statement: "read my lips, no new taxes". At least Bush was overcome by events. In this case, Obama mislead everyone from the get-go

In any event, both of Bernstein's statements claim that in some way plans were getting "significantly worse" and that's the reason they were cancelled. I don't believe that's true at all. They have been cancelled because they don't offer expensive benefits mandated in the new law. The administration has, by design, forced the termination of these existing plans.

Cassidy writes:

If these promises had been made in the private sector, the person or entity making these promises could potentially be held accountable under the DTPA. Since it's a politician making these promises, it's just politics and millions of Americans will suffer.

Yancey Ward writes:

Well, the very first comment pretty much says it all. Hard to improve on it.

Daniel Kuehn writes:

magilson -
1. I read it as health insurance too (unless there are specific cases where he's clearly referring to care). It frustrates me when I see this too, but then again it makes me wonder how I've used the two interchangeably just because it's done so much and I've picked up a bad habit.

2. This is just silly: "And as far as your remembering the zeitgeist differently than pretty much everyone who is talking about it right now that hasn't readily shown themselves to be an appologist for the PPACA it's really quite simple." I've only seen this in libertarian and conservative crowds, and only in the last couple weeks. You may disagree with me on the zeitgeist, fine. But don't try to paint mine as an oddball position. And I didn't even like the positions that are at issue here (the mandates), so that doesn't hold water either. It's like RPLong above saying I'm making excuses for politicians - if that's all you've got then it doesn't speak well for your position.

3. re: "You'll find, quite easily, that actually a LOT of people were discussing this in exactly the manner we are discussing it now." Sure, certainly it's not like everyone was inventing this up on the spot. My point is that a most weren't, and the ones that interpret my way are leaps and bounds more plausible.

Yancey Ward writes:

The point, Daniel, is this- a lot of people did point out that Obama's words in this regard were likely to be lies when taken literally, however, people like Bernstein were as silent as stones when the supporters of ACA chimed in to support Obama's assertions. They certainly were not out there correcting the misinterpretation. They only speak up now because the original position is untenable on its face and defending it now is just foolish.

[comment edited with permission--Econlib Ed.]

Daniel Kuehn writes:

Yancey - you might also consider that the position maintained by David and others is very much a minority position. I knew he made a post about it. Presumably there were others. And really he and I were on the same page we just had different views on what Obama meant.

But the flood that I saw was that Obama wants socialized medicine. That was, understandably, what people were addressing.

Yancey Ward writes:

Just find me one example of an ACA supporter who wrote before September of 2013 that Obama was being disingenuous and misleading when he said:

I know that there are millions of Americans who are content with their health care coverage - they like their plan and they value their relationship with their doctor. And that means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.

Extra points if that person is Bernstein, Sally Kohn, Jonathan Chait, Ezra Klein, or Jonathan Cohn, or anyone from HHS or the Obama Administration. Just one.

Bruce writes:

Mr Kuehn,

"you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what"

As it was my job to read and report on the ACA to my company, I too rejected the President's claims that individuals and companies would be able to keeping their existing healthcare plans. My rejection though was the result of my extensive research and not the Presidents public claims.

In fact the President's repeated claims proved so effective that both our board and our insurance broker were certain we could keep our plan, right up until the point where it was canceled.

Isn't the purpose of ending a statement with the word "Period" mean that there is no foot note & no exception? If "Period" does not convey this meaning, in this context, then what meaning does it convey?

And doesn't the statement "No one will take it away. No matter what" reinforce the idea that there are no exceptions?

Does "No matter what" actually mean "except in cases where your policy conflicts with current or future regulations of the ACA?"

I guess the question I'm asking is can you conceive of a more misleading paragraph than the one provided? I would love to read it.

BarryV writes:

1) Obama said what he said.
2) Most news outlets and pro-Obamacare pundits have since repeated it without footnote.
3) Obama (and his apologists) did not do anything to correct the common interpretation of what he said.

The best case scenario for Obama is that this is a sin of omission: he failed to correct the record.

The worst case is a bald faced lie.

Many would call a sin of omission a lie...

Daniel Kuehn writes:

Yancey -
I don't think you're understanding me. I don't think that is misleading. I don't think David's interpretation is a good one at all.

Yancey Ward writes:

Daniel,

Your interpretation of what Obama meant was/is a minority position, and I note that I have only read this position from ACA supporters in the last month- really only in the last week. Quite a few non-supporters of ACA pointed out that what Obama was saying over and over, without footnotes, had to be untrue, and supporters of the ACA consistently said/wrote otherwise. So, where was Bernstein then, or Sally Kohn?

Yancey Ward writes:

No, Daniel, I understood you completely.

Jorge Gonzalez writes:

Daniel/Berstein's contortions are really rather incredible. How many other ways are we, or anyone, to understand the following:

NO MATTER HOW WE REFORM HEALTH CARE...


That implies, no, that necessitates (?) the interpretation, that there is nothing in this reform law, there is nothing hidden that will later surprise you, there is nothing that will suddenly happen that will break the following promise:

"If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what."

Period.
Twice.

To most honest people not bent on abject tribalism and partisan apologetics that means my health care isn't going to change. I can trust the President on this.

But to hear Daniel or Bernstein tell it, here's what the the President actually said:

NO MATTER (translation: Things are actually way different so ignore this bit. It's cool, you guys on my side know double speak. --secret handshake, epic fist bump--) HOW WE REFORM (you won't get to keep your plan. I mean, c'mon, right? If it's reform and you get to keep your plan, then what are we reforming? AMA Right!!??) HEALTH CARE (health care, health plan, tomato, tomahto).

You gents get the idea. But it's pointless to argue this because the Left never argues in good faith...'cause they got the truth on they're side, haven't ya heard?

Yancey Ward writes:

Here is Glenn Kessler's take on what Obama was saying prior to October 1, 2013:

The president’s statements were sweeping and unequivocal — and made both before and after the bill became law. The White House now cites technicalities to avoid admitting that he went too far in his repeated pledge, which, after all, is one of the most famous statements of his presidency.

The president’s promise apparently came with a very large caveat: “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan — if we deem it to be adequate.”

Link

Only sophistry can explain Obama's words away.

magilson writes:

Daniel,

In response to your second point, as I suggested, you will find you are wrong about what the prior discussion revolved around if you do some searching. When Obama made these claims - several times as others have pointed out - it was immediately seized upon as being an impossible promise given the language of the law by opponents of the PPACA at the time the President was making these statements. I'm absolutely sure some people talked about the PPACA as being socialized medicine. No doubt. No argument. Many prominent bloggers, neither libertarian nor conservative, specifically utilized this point by the President to declare criticisms of this claim of a "hands off" position by the Administration with regard to current health insurance plans as the very fear-mongering the President spoke of in the "first" paragraph I quoted. But I think you might be surprised to find out a lot of people understood it to mean what the rest of us are trying to convey to you.

Then again, your very claim that it was "only seen... in libertarian and conservative crowds" is a very weak position to hold. Especially since, given those are political viewpoints that are not the political viewpoints of the President, it would make sense that they would be the ones to make a criticism. So to say it was only in the last few weeks is to make it known that you've done no research other than to search your own memory. And to claim it is baseless because the only people complaining are the people a logical person would expect to complain is truly what's "silly".

And that's why your own third point completes the counter-argument against your very position!

In Point 2:

I've only seen this in libertarian and conservative crowds, and only in the last couple weeks.

In Point 3:

Sure, certainly it's not like everyone was inventing this up on the spot. My point is that a most weren't, and the ones that interpret my way are leaps and bounds more plausible.

You directly contradict yourself. Which is why it's occurred to me that you aren't talking about what the rest of us are talking about.

*We* are talking about the promise to allow people who prefer their existing health insurance plan to continue to purchase it. *We* maintain, and have for some time, that this was a lie of one form or another as has been outlined very, very clearly above by many.

*You* maintain this oft repeated quote was simply a refutation of a criticism he outlined in the prior paragraph. I outlined very clearly why this can only result in the conclusion that the President did a poor job at it. But I don't think your point was that he did a good job, either. I can only assume you don't disagree with this assessment because the majority of your effort has been to repeat that this is a new concern invented by Not The Left as opposed to actually defending the position you claim to be:

leaps and bounds more plausible.

What I ask is that you clarify that last position. Because you haven't at all in any of the comments you've shared here. I think you've overstated the positions of those you disagree with by stating that *we* must believe he meant our plans could lock in place as of the implementation of the PPACA as opposed to understanding it to mean that plans that did not include the additional coverage items, risk exposure, caps, etc. could be maintained.

Because what's far, far more plausible is that you simple didn't actually know what people thought. And proclaiming people to be unreasonable for their understanding makes no sense whatsoever.

You think the President said that to ensure people it wasn't socialized medicine. Fine. You need to accept the possibility that others did. In fact a lot of others did. And these others weren't in your news feed, don't blog, and perhaps don't do much conversing on the internet at all about wonkish stuff like health insurance. So if "the news" suddenly decides to bring this to light, it might expose you to a possibility that isn't unreasonable. Instead it might be a possibility you just didn't know about.

josh franta writes:

"I've been shocked at how many people said he broke his promise. At the time it was quite clear he was responding to claims that government was trying to socialize health care - not that Obama was guaranteeing that all plans, no matter how much they contradicted the legislation, would be available to you forever and ever and ever."

Definately the many of the ACA criticisms were inappropriate and unconstructive.

Still obama he said the same phrase long before ACA name-calling started, he was using it during the hillary debates. It was his catch all solution to any question that might require somebody to understand complexity or nuances in his plan, he'd pull out "if you like your plan, you will be able to keep it." Which conveyed that people didn't have anything to fear about his "change". I voted for obama but he messed up here.

he worked so hard to get this message into everyone's heads, it's disingenous to not take responsibility for it now. He's a smart and generally well intentioned guy but he clearly lawyer-ed everybody on this one.

The better solution would be for him and his team to come forward and say they're sorry that the industry canceled more plans than expected and they're going to work on solutions. Right now Sibelius is saying "it's only 5%", like 5% of the population is so small it doesn't matter. As long as they stick to these defensive, weak and uncaring responses they're going to get beat up by republicans. And rightly so because this phrase was one of obama's most repeated promises.

Insight writes:

My interpretation of his strong "Period" statements goes even farther than most of his current opponents.

To really keep his promise (and that's what it was) there should have been something in the law that prohibited insurance companies from canceling (or significantly modifying, including major premium increases) any existing policy, or dropping any existing doctor from an existing plan. (I think it would go too far to say the president was promising that your doctor wouldn't ever die though.)

Any bill that did not include these guarantees should have been vetoed by him if we was going to keep his promise.

He made a promise to individuals of two very important guarantees, neither of which was present in the law he signed.

Jeff writes:
formerly Joe Biden's chief economist

I wonder if he puts that on his resume.

Daniel Kuehn writes:

Insight -
There are two options. He could be lying by not including the provision. Or perhaps not including the provision is evidence against your interpretation.

Politicians lie a lot. But pseudonymous posters on blogs that discuss hot ideologically charged topics get things wrong a lot. So there's no particular reason to have a strong prior either way.

magilson writes:

As far as I can see, the be-all end-all point which absolutely refutes the claim Daniel and the like are trying to make is this:

http://www.whitehouse.gov/healthreform/healthcare-overview

For those Americans who already have health insurance, the only changes you will see under the law are new benefits, better protections from insurance company abuses, and more value for every dollar you spend on health care. If you like your plan you can keep it and you don’t have to change a thing due to the health care law.

This is not written in a context to refute the claim of socialistic healthcare policy. It is a simple statement. And it means exactly what it sounds like. And it's a bald-faced lie. He lied.

pyroseed13 writes:

Hmm I sort of agree with Daniel Kuehn here (I am not a liberal btw). Did anyone seriously think that ALL plans would have been acceptable under the ACA guidelines? I agree that liberal health care policy wonks may not have all been honest on that point, but I don't understand why conservatives and libertarians are so shocked to discover that many plans will be discarded under Obamacare.

Steve J writes:

Still hoping someone will explain why all these plans do not qualify for grandfathering. The wrong explanation is they do not meet ACA requirements. Of course not - why would it be called grandfathering if it met requirements? The whole point of grandfathering is to allow plans that do not meet current requirements to exist. So again, why do these plans not qualify for grandfathering?

Insight writes:

Daniel Kuehn, I never mentioned lying.

He broke his promise (possibly unintentionally -- is it clear he actually knew what was in it when he signed it, since it is clear Congress did not when they passed it) by signing a law that lacked the protections he promised to include. It was hard to get a bill passed at all, and in the end, the bill fell far short of what he promised, but he signed it anyway.

After signing, when he repeated the statement, he may have been lying or he (still) may have not fully understood the direct and indirect consequences of the law.

Broken promise: most definitely. Lying: not so clear.

Insight writes:

Steve J, the grandfathering provision was very weak. It required no (or nearly no) changes to the policies after 2010. But the marketplace reality is (and has been for many years) that many policies change every year or every few years, at which point the grandfathering provision no longer applies.

Further, the law does not require that the grandfathered policies remain available next year, even if they are still around. So if the insurers find them unprofitable or even merely inconvenient, in light of the massive changes to the marketplace, then they won't be available.

The combination of these appears to be hitting several million people (but we don't know the actual numbers yet).

Insight writes:

pyroseed13: "Did anyone seriously think that ALL plans would have been acceptable under the ACA guidelines?"

No, but there was supposed to be a grandfathering provision consistent with the president's promise. In reality the provision was too weak to cover a large number of people.

Maurice de Sully writes:

I don't understand why conservatives and libertarians are so shocked to discover that many plans will be discarded under Obamacare.

It's not conservatives and libertarians who are shocked. Most of them knew Obama's comment was a lie when it was stated.

Currently, contra the assertion of you and Mr. Kuehn, it is people who are decidedly neither conservative nor libertarian who are finding out what many conservatives and libertarians have known this whole time.

The discussion of his broken promise is on the front on CNN and MSNBC and is one of the top stories at the Washington Post. Suggesting it is now conservatives and libertarians who are frustrated with the dishonesty is exactly backwards.

magilson writes:

pyroseed13,

People who discussed it online knew it was a lie. It was discussed at great length as being very unlikely. It was discussed at great length that likely Obama was being dishonest to sell the ACA. (A still then unknown beast which we were all still reading to begin to comprehend)

A lot more plans are dropped than people expected. And because in taking these people at their word there are now ACA defenders who are saying things like "duh", "you're better off", "you're being dishonest about your concern", "I'm shocked that you're concerned", etc. it's grown into something which should be quite obviously infuriating if a person is honest with themselves. This comment section has proven to me that a lot of people aren't honest with themselves that other humans a) exist and b) have thoughts other than one's own.

I find it magical that a person could claim people are unfairly deducing the meaning of one individual's thoughts and statements and then in the same paragraph perform the very same act on the "opposition" in the argument. It's so fantastically inconsistent it begs one to wonder why anyone should take a person like that seriously.

What this debate (new or old) has done is to illuminate two kinds of wonks be they professional or amature.

1. Conservatives and/or libertarians or those who opposed the ACA who are saying,"What did you think would happen?" to people who supported the ACA and now feel slighted by it's effects or those who supported the ACA and believed the President at his word about existing policies.

2. Progressives or supporters of the ACA saying," What did you think would happen?" to those people who took Obama at his word that even if they didn't like the changes in the ACA they could continue to purchase health insurance as they had been.

So, if I'm to lump myself in with the tribalism to make it easier to digest, we're just mad that we were right and we're being told we aren't.

The President lied.

Tony N writes:

[Comment removed for ad hominem remark. Email the webmaster@econlib.org to request restoring your comment privileges. A valid email address is required to post comments on EconLog and EconTalk.--Econlib Ed.]

Daniel Kuehn writes:

pyroseed13 -

I'm glad you said this: "(I am not a liberal btw)." (I'm not either).

And what's more relevant is that I said back in December 2009 that the mandates are "a very bad idea" and that they force one to consider whether the ACA is a bad bill (on balance I decided it was still worth passing so you could class me as a defender of the ACA, but not of the mandates causing this movement off plans).

Unfortunately, several commenters here have played the game of saying that this perspective we find more plausible is a defense of politicians or the ACA (I wonder if the moderator would let my comment stand if I said David was making excuses for Republicans the way she let RPLong's comment that I was making excuses for Democrats stand).

This sort of thing is to be expected, of course, but it's good to drive the point home that we find these arguments convincing and that there's no real political agenda here.

Steve J writes:

@Insight - so it was the insurers who decided not to grandfather these plans. Clearly we need to understand why the insurers chose to switch to ACA compliant plans rather than keep their old plans. And obviously many of the plans that are being "cancelled" were not going to be available for purchase anyway since as you note the plans are constantly changing. Anyone whose plan is being cancelled does not have the same plan they did in 2010 - it may have the same name but clearly not the same contents.

Obama clearly committed a sin of omission. Sure you can keep your plan - if your insurer is willing to keep it available.

magilson writes:

Daniel,

Given that President Obama made multiple statements to the effect of "you can keep your insurance..." but in each instance was not stating it as a refutation of the claim of socialism how is it you maintain your position is more plausible?

Please be specific.

Insight writes:

Steve J: "so it was the insurers who decided not to grandfather these plans."

No question that is part of what is going on. But it is also the case that long before ACA, it has been common practice in the industry to change policies every year or every few years, and the law was written narrowly with respect to grandfathering.

That is not limited to medical policies either. I don't know about you but every year I get a few pages of changes to my auto and home policies as well.

It is also certainly reasonable to expect that if a major reform of an industry is enacted into law, that is going to prompt more changes to existing policies, not fewer, unless the law prohibits such changes or otherwise provides the protection to policy holders that Obama promised (which it did not).

MingoV writes:

"Did Obama Break His Promise?"

I have a better question: "Did Obama keep any of the promises he made since 2008?"

Daniel Kuehn writes:

magilson -
I've been specific throughout the thread so I'm concerned if I continue to be specific you're going to be no more happy than you already are. You're not looking for more specificity so much as something you agree with, I suspect, and of course I'm in no position to guarantee that for you.

Check out the comment at 8:26 am - that's the crux of what you guys are expecting me to believe and what I am expecting you to believe. Mine is far more plausible as far as I can tell.

Steve J writes:

@Insight - While I am not a fan of Obama, I am hoping ACA will work. Things like this certainly do not help in that regard. These policy holders should have been notified of impending cancellation once their plans no longer qualified for grandfathering instead of getting surprised now. I don't blame the insurance companies for this I blame the writers of ACA. And given the way people are getting surprised now Obama's statement qualifies as a whopper.

Thomas Sewell writes:

The ACA makes it illegal to purchase insurance that isn't expensive enough, i.e. doesn't cover enough.

"Under-insured" is the new minimum wage law for the 21st century. Regular people are not being allowed to pay large insurance corporations to purchase less than a certain level of coverage, even if they'd otherwise be able to agree on a price and coverage set.

From that perspective, does any economist doubt that as a result prices will rise while the number of insured will drop?

Insight writes:

Steve J: "These policy holders should have been notified of impending cancellation once their plans no longer qualified for grandfathering instead of getting surprised now."

It goes beyond that. The grandfathering doesn't prevent plans from being canceled. It merely ALLOWS the insurer and insured to continue to contract outside the scope-of-coverage regulations if they both choose to. The insurer may not (for whatever reason, but massive changes in the marketplace are certainly a reasonable one), in which case people can't "keep their plan."

And then there is the drastic reduction of provider networks.

Obama's promises were very clear and very broad. He said that "no one" (not just the federal government, no one!) would take away your plan or doctor. That is nothing like what is actually happening.

Read it yourself:

"And that means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what."

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-annual-conference-american-medical-association

Brad writes:

Why does ACA prevent consumers from expressing their preferences in the market place?

If I liked my old plan, and was willing to continue with it in light of the other "better" plans, why would anyone want to deny my right to choose?

[comment edited by commenter--Econlib Ed.]

Brian writes:

Daniel Kuehn,

Let's suppose you're right that Obama's "promise" was aimed at deflecting charges of socialism. Do I correctly understand you, then, as saying that Obama's statements were intended to mean something like this?

"ACA is not socialized medicine. You will not be required to give up your plans for some government-created plan. We will not make you give up your plan. But of course we can't control whether insurance companies choose not to offer your plan any more."

If so, how does this make the statement any less false or misleading? The reality is that the outrage is NOT about insurance companies choosing to cancel policies. It's about insurance companies NOT BEING ALLOWED TO OFFER previous plans because they are not sufficiently loaded with goodies, or in the case of cadillac plans, not being allowed to offer too many goodies. The ACA severely restricts the diversity of permitted plans and therefore requires by government fiat that insurance companies abandon plans preferred by millions of Americans. And this is clearly in violation of what Obama appeared to promise.

Obama certainly knew that millions would be forced to change plans when he made his statements. The reality is that he repeated his long-standing campaign promise, even though he knew it wasn't true, because he was appealing to voters' status-quo bias (h/t to Bryan Caplan) and knew this was the best way to deflect criticism of the plan.

For the average voter, who was far less knowledgeable about the details of the ACA, this has every appearance of a broken promise and they have every right to be angry about it. The only surprise here is that you should be shocked by their reaction.

Erik writes:

@ThomasSewell, you would undoubtedly be right if all the ACA did was mandate a minimum level of coverage, but it goes further. If you were to add a mandatory full employment clause, I believe you'd be closer to a model that is comparable to the ACA, although you'd still be missing the subsidies. I guess the equivalent in a minimum wage model would be subsidies for firms with revenue, or maybe profit margins, under a certain level... I don't know exactly, but I do know that comparing the ACA to a basic supply and demand model with a price floor isn't apples to apples.

Erik writes:

I don't think it's fair to jump to the conclusion that Obama was lying or intentionally misleading the public (no one can claim to know exactly what he meant at the time), but I think saying that his statement was anything less than misleading in effect - once again, not necessarily in intent - is disingenuous. There isn't much room for interpretation in his statement, "If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period." When I verbalize "period" at the end of a sentence - and I don't think I'm in the minority here - I mean without qualification. Clearly, there was a big qualification that he didn't mention, and now a few million people are unexpectedly unable to keep their health care plans. You can debate if those people should have been more informed or less trusting of a politician, and thus not surprised, but not if Obama's statement had the easily avoidable effect of misleading a lot of people.

Yancey Ward writes:

Erik,

He was either intentionally trying to mislead people, or he was just staggeringly ignorant about his own law and its consequences. I find the latter explanation pretty unbelievable on its face. He knew what he was doing- attempting mollify enough people in order to get the law passed, and he knew that even if it were true that the laws critics would point out that he was lying, the supporters in the media would either remain silent for as long as it took, or would actively prop up the lie.

Insight writes:

Erik: "When I verbalize ''period'' at the end of a sentence - and I don't think I'm in the minority here - I mean without qualification."

How do you (or those defending Obama here) interpret his next sentence?

"No one will take it away, no matter what"

(See my post a few back for context.)

magilson writes:

Daniel,

Your point in the comment you selected as the basis of your argument is that you believe that taking the President at his word required everyone to also believe, or perhaps more importantly perceive, that in taking his statement literally it also meant the President was ready to entirely circumvent the very law he had just signed. After all, as is logical, in order to have reform you must disallow what now exists in order to reshape it into the new and reformed version required of the law.

That's unreasonable.

Even as the President was making these assurances - and as so many have now pointed out he'd said it many, many times without also making the reference to the ACA as a socializer of American Healthcare - people as of yet did not understand what the ACA would actually do. You must think of this in terms of what was known at the time. I feel you are applying your current level of knowledge about the ACA and painting it over what was truly understood at the time.

I'm not talking mandates. I'm not talking subsidies. I'm not talking about allowing an uninsured person to continue to make that choice unpenalized. I'm not talking about anything other than allowing a health insurance buyer at the time of his speech(es) to maintain their preferred level of coverage after the law goes into affect.

So it's both reasonable that people would have taken him at his word and given current reactions there is overwhelming evidence now that they did. In fact, as I pointed out in another comment, the Whitehouse website still phrases this promise using the exact same language. There is no qualification of knocking down the socialized medicine hecklers at all.

And the evidence further shows you to be wrong when the talking points have now settled out for the Administration and they've all decided the appropriate response is that all these plans which are no longer supported were "sub-standard".

One can either take people at their word or not. We're now being asked not to after years of asking us to do just that. And quite frankly it's bizarre. I understand the desire to take a person at their word. But if honest you must then do that when someone tells you they thought he meant they'd be able to keep their plan as-is. So why won't you?

Brian writes:

Erik,

You say "I don't think it's fair to jump to the conclusion that Obama was lying or intentionally misleading the public ...."

Here's what the Washington Post said yesterday:

"Fact-checkers and journalists have ruled that Obama wasn't being truthful when he claimed that people who liked their insurance could keep it."

It's fair to jump to that conclusion when the evidence is as obvious as it is. Obama purposely misled out of political expediency and calculated that it wouldn't matter by the time ACA was implemented.

Indeed, in an earlier article the Washington Post gave Obama's statement "Four Pinocchios," which is their "Whopper" rating. They appeared to hold in the same high regard a tweet from Valerie Jarrett just three days ago:

“FACT: Nothing in #Obamacare forces people out of their health plans. No change is required unless insurance companies change existing plans.”

The administration is STILL lying.

Yancey Ward writes:

Magilson,

Exactly my interpretation of the 8:26 a.m. comment:

"Obama couldn't have been lying because if you took his words literally, it could only have been the truth if he was willing to abrogate his own legislative initiative, but since no one has shown that Obama was willing make good on this promise as it was understood by most people, then he must have meant something else entirely. Thus it could not be called a lie."

Hazel Meade writes:

The way the regulations are written, almost any change, even very minor ones (for example increasing co-pays by $10), will cause a plan to lose grandfathered status.

Since the regulations are under the control of the HHS, they obviously CHOSE to write them that way.

And I can see why. The people already in the individual market on the grandfathered plans are (a) the most likely to continue to buy insurance under the ACA, and (b) the relatively healthy.

Since there is so much concern about enough healthy people buying into the exchanges, it was necessary to force this group of people to pay more in insurance costs in order to subsidize all the sick people entering the exchanges. You can't have 50% of the individual market on grandfathered plans, and have that 50% be the bulk of the healthy population that is willing to buy insurance, and still keep rates down on the exchanges.

That is probably why we see so many stories where the people whose plans are being canceled go on the exchange and find out that their rates have doubled.

magilson writes:

Yancey Ward,

In short, Daniel's argument is that President Obama is not a liar because President Obama is not a liar. The very fact that a grandfathered provision existed, only to be "clarified" into impossibility later by HHS as explained clearly in the article most recently provided by Brian:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2013/10/30/obamas-pledge-that-no-one-will-take-away-your-health-plan/

The law did allow “grandfathered” plans — for people who had obtained their insurance before the law was signed on March 23, 2010 — to escape this requirement and some other aspects of the law. But the regulations written by HHS while implementing the law set some tough guidelines, so that if an insurance company makes changes to a plan’s benefits or how much members pay through premiums, co-pays or deductibles, then a person’s plan likely loses that status. If you dig into the regulations (go to page 34560), you will see that HHS wrote them extremely tight. One provision says that if co-payment increases by more than $5, plus medical cost of inflation, then the plan can no longer be grandfathered. (With last year’s inflation rate of 4 percent, that means the co-pay could not increase by more than $5.20.) Another provision says the co-insurance rate could not be increased at all above the level it was on March 23, 2010.

If you couple what President Obama clearly said in plain English before anyone had real access to the law (and for the umpteenth time I will point out many times subsequently!) it is not unreasonable that a person would take the President at his word.

1. President Obama declared in plain English and with emphasis what amounted to the grandfathering of plans.

2. The ACA as signed by President Obama allowed for the grandfathering of plans.

3. HHS, under the purview of the Obama Administration, later "clarified" this provision of the new law such that it made it nothing less than certain no plans would possibly qualify.

Add to that a side note that plans are most commonly renewed annually and have been for years and years and it's pretty clear this statement was misleading/ a lie/ an error of omission or any other such polite term a person can imagine which conveys that what was said was not true.

Period.

Thomas Strenge writes:

Daniel,

are you familiar with Occam's Razor? Your loyalty to Obama cannot be questioned. Your willingness to contort intellectually an obvious falsehood into some resemblance of "truthiness" does have an air of heroic pathos. Unfortunately, I am too simple a man to follow your reasoning.

Sincerely,
Thomas Strenge

Erik writes:

Brian,

"Fact-checkers and journalists have ruled that Obama wasn't being truthful when he claimed that people who liked their insurance could keep it."

It's fair to jump to that conclusion when the evidence is as obvious as it is.


Not being truthful isn't the same as lying. Lying requires intent. Do you know, without any doubt, that he was intentionally untruthful (i.e. lying), or that he was being intentionally deceitful (i.e. he knew people would interpret it to mean their plans wouldn't be canceled ever, regardless of insurers changes to the policy)? If you do know this without a doubt, how do you know this? Like I said, there is no doubt that his statement was misleading in effect, but for the sake of civil political discourse - which is all too lacking these days - let's not make ad hominem attacks based upon assumptions. He should be held accountable for misleading the public; he should not be attacked based upon assumptions of his intent.

Yancy,

or he was just staggeringly ignorant about his own law and its consequences.

See above. You don't know how he thought it would be interpreted.

Insight,

How do you (or those defending Obama here) interpret his next sentence?
"No one will take it away, no matter what"

No one from the government? If he were to say, "No one's coming for your guns, no matter what," then you had your guns stolen the next day, does that mean he's lying? He has some control over the government's actions, not everyone's everywhere. I still think his statements were likely enough to be misinterpreted that he should have qualified them, but that doesn't mean he was lying.

magilson writes:

Erik,

President Obama signed the law with a grandfathering provision which was later "clarified" by an HHS decree which crippled it into meaninglessness.

If a person says one thing at time "n" and does another later at time "n+1" what do you personally call that?

Hazel Meade writes:

Obama seems to be staggeringly ignorant about all sorts of things that his administration does, so I don't find it implausible at all that he may have honestly thought that the grandfathering provision was ironclad.

But, clearly, SOMEBODY writing the HHS regs knew perfectly well that very few plans were going to be grandfathered, and made it that way intentionally.

So, who really wrote those regulations, and why?


magilson writes:
Obama seems to be staggeringly ignorant about all sorts of things that his administration does, so I don't find it implausible at all that he may have honestly thought that the grandfathering provision was ironclad.

Is incompetence a better or worse trait as a politician than liar in the eyes of "the public"? The President "doesn't write legislation" but this President sure has gone before Congress laying out exactly what he want's legislation to look like and those who also share his political party name seem quickly to jump on board with it. And, again, the President signed it. Is a President saying s/he didn't know "what was in it" an acceptable thing for them to say?

I'm just shocked at the level of understanding given to this President. Is it literally impossible for him to do wrong? To be culpable for anything he does? Is it appropriate for a President to express anger at a group of people he is tasked with commanding to imply that he somehow is separate from them?

Erik writes:

Magilson,

If a person says one thing at time "n" and does another later at time "n+1" what do you personally call that?

I personally call that a separate event to be judged separately because the future is unpredictable. If I say I'm going to go to work tomorrow, but then I break my leg and call in, what do you call that? I said one thing at time "n" and did another at time "n+1". Can you honestly say you've never said one thing and later did another? I doubt anyone can. I'll just repost a part from my last post that maybe you missed. At the time he made those statements, not when the HHS regs were written, " Do you know, without any doubt, that he was intentionally untruthful (i.e. lying), or that he was being intentionally deceitful (i.e. he knew people would interpret it to mean their plans wouldn't be canceled ever, regardless of insurers changes to the policy)? If you do know this without a doubt, how do you know this?"

I'm just shocked at the level of understanding given to this President. Is it literally impossible for him to do wrong? To be culpable for anything he does?
I also said this, which maybe you also missed, "He should be held accountable for misleading the public; he should not be attacked based upon assumptions of his intent." I'll just clarify this so (hopefully) no one will misinterpret me, I think misleading the public, with or without intent, is wrong and requires accountability. In case that wasn't clear enough: Obama did wrong, and he should be held accountable.
magilson writes:

Erik,

Consider the very things you just said.

He made the statement, in plain English, as follows:

And that means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor. Period. If you like your health care plan, you will be able to keep your health care plan. Period. No one will take it away. No matter what.

And then, granted some time later, he allowed or asked HHS to issue a clarification that went back on what he said.

Now consider your analogy phrased in the same sort of way:

1. Hey boss, I'm coming to work tomorrow.

2. [Hey boss, I'm going to be making some changes to the way I work for you. But I'm not going to be lazy like some have said I'll be.] And that means that no matter which route I take to work, I will keep this promise: If you want me to come to work, I will come to work. Period. If you like the time I arrive at work, I will arrive at work at that time. Period. No one will change that. No matter what.

There's a really big difference between those statements. Your analogy just isn't at all analogous to what actually happened.

If President Obama had, in one of his I'm-looking-away-from-the-prompter-so-you-know-how-much-I-care moments and said more simply, "If you like your health plan you can keep it", I might sort of see your point. But that's not even remotely what happened.

And to complete the analogy: Later that evening your wrote an email to your boss from home saying you needed to run an errand in the morning and you were going to be 30 minutes late. You wrote it at a time when your boss had no possibility of responding and informing you that they really needed you to stick to your word. And you wrote an email instead of calling your boss about it even though you have the boss' number and your boss will take a call from you at any time.

Now you may say that in changing your mind about coming in on time you simply misled your boss. But it turns out it's probably not unrealistic for your boss to think you lied when you made that statement. In fact it wouldn't be shocking at all. And it sure doesn't help that you haven't been at all interested in explaining yourself to your boss other than to say the time you said were coming in to work was dumb and your boss will get much better results from you when you come in at the new time.

I'm sorry but the man just used language far too strong for me to believe anyone who tells me it was an innocent little claim that the poor old guy just didn't know he couldn't pull off and we should all just be "awe shucks" about it.

Erik writes:
I'm sorry but the man just used language far too strong for me to believe anyone who tells me it was an innocent little claim that the poor old guy just didn't know he couldn't pull off and we should all just be "awe shucks" about it.
This is ridiculous. You failed, yet again, to answer my question of whether and how you know, without a doubt, what his intentions were at the time. If you cannot answer that question, then you're making assumptions, and hurling pejoratives based on your assumption is wrong and unhelpful. I don't think I could have made myself any more clear. What part of
"He should be held accountable for misleading the public; he should not be attacked based upon assumptions of his intent." I'll just clarify this so (hopefully) no one will misinterpret me, I think misleading the public, with or without intent, is wrong and requires accountability. In case that wasn't clear enough: Obama did wrong, and he should be held accountable.
did you not understand? Is that being "aww shucks" about it?
magilson writes:

http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592411.pdf

The GAO provided an estimate for the number of people who would be dropped as a result of the PPACA. The President and his administration continued with the same talking point. The President continued to make this claim after evidence was provided that it could not be so. The claim still exists on the White House website. The President took action by way of the DHHS to further clarify the law which had the effect of reducing the scope and therefore likelihood that his statement would be true. The President continued to make this same assertion of his original claim.

Brian writes:

Erik,

I would consider untruthfulness to be lying or deliberately misleading if you have good reason to believe that promise won't be fulfilled, or if you really mean something different than a commonsense interpretation of the promise, or if you have NO REAL INTENTION TO ENSURE THAT THE PROMISE IS FULFILLED.

Let me be clear. When Obama repeatedly made his promise, I think he WANTED it to be true. He knew it sounded good to a jittery public, but also he wanted it to be true. His problem was not intention to lie but lack of intention. He never intended to ENSURE that his promise was kept, and that's the same as a lie.

Let me use an employee as an example. The employee is repeatedly late to work because of oversleeping. After the boss warns him, he promises that it won't happen again. At the time he says it, he no doubt believes it. "I am ABSOLUTELY going to be in on time, no matter what it takes." The next morning, he's late again. Did he lie? Well, it depends. When you find out that the employee still stayed out late drinking (again), didn't set the alarm any earlier, didn't ask his roommate to make sure he was up, still HAD to stop for his favorite iced coffee, you get the idea that the employee wasn't serious about keeping the promise. THAT MAKES THE PROMISE INTO A LIE.

This is exactly what Obama (and his administration) did. He could have ensured that the grandfathering was more generous in the regulations, but he didn't. He could have listened to the insurance company executives who told him the regs were too restrictive, but he didn't. He could have have taken the CBO statements about lost coverage to heart and asked for advice on how to avoid that outcome, but he didn't. All the evidence detailed in the links I gave shows a pattern of disregard for the effect that the law and later regulations would have on people's coverage. It's evidence that Obama didn't care whether the pledge was met or not because he and the people under him had other goals in mind, like forcing a certain level of coverage, and they weren't going to let something as silly as a little promise get in the way.

Anyhow, Obama and his people have behaved this way repeatedly in everything he's done. They intend to do what they want to do, everyone else be damned. That's one reason why gridlock has gotten worse in Washington. If you haven't noticed that this is how the Administration tends to operate, you haven't been paying attention.

Tom Phillips writes:

I think it is fair to say that Obama's frequent use of his favourite soundbite - "you like your plan, you can keep your plan" ended up misleading people.

Whether it was deliberate or unintentional we can only speculate.

When politicians make these sorts of claims (read my lips, no new taxes comes to mind) it is clearly wise to read the small-print.

Jay writes:

People are mentioning the grandfather clauses and whether the administration/congress had knowledge of their tightness before making the comments in the OP (not just the President in 8 speeches, many members of congress parroted them at the time).

Given that it is coming out today that an amendment to loosen the grandfather restrictions was shot down at the time, I think it is reasonable to assume the Democrats knew exactly what they were doing and lying about.

Sy writes:

Let’s try the following analogy:

Your doctor calls you to say, “having run all the available tests, there’s nothing wrong, you’re fine. Period.” Six months later when you start getting sick you go to another specialist, who looks at your previously run tests and informs you that you have a serious condition that was flagged in the results. If you had known about that condition at the time of the original report, you would have done things differently and not be in this dire situation now.

You call the first doctor’s office to ask why you were intentionally mislead? The doctor doesn’t respond directly but his office manager (Jerry Bern) writes a note saying that you are being disingenuous for claiming to have been mislead. As he helpfully points out, you could have easily asked for and read the (2000+ page) test report at the time and would have known of the seriousness of your condition. Clearly, the nuanced meaning of what the doctor said to you was, “besides what’s in the report, you’re perfectly fine.”

This becomes an issue on your blog and a few clear thinking commenters also helpfully point out that: 1) You are missing the context. In context, the doctor was holding what any sensible person would have assumed to be your report when he spoke to you, by which he strongly implied that he wasn’t referring to what’s actually in your test results and you need to read the report yourself. 2) One commenter adds, since this doctor is known to be misinformed/uninformed about many reports that come to his desk, it is silly for you to assume that he’s basing his opinion on what’s actually in the report. 3) Another commenter points out that the venerable doctor did not intentionally mislead (as you so crassly said) because when he informed you in time period x that you were fine, he believed that to be true. Later in time period y, when he was informed by you of the actual test results, he fully understood your condition. Undoubtedly, these were independent events that only a knave or a fool would conflate.

Hope this helps, though I’m not holding my breath.

Sy writes:

@ Erik,

“I personally call that a separate event to be judged separately because the future is unpredictable.”

Let me state the obvious. That’s only true if what’s known to the speaker in period n+1 was not fully known and understood by him in period n.

“You failed, yet again, to answer my question of whether and how you know, without a doubt, what his intentions were at the time.”

Since the standard of evidence to put a person in jail for life is beyond a reasonable doubt, I question your veracity when you insist on a standard of “without a doubt” for people to hold and espouse an opinion.

John Strong writes:

Standard practices for vetting presidential speeches leave no doubt that Obama's team deliberately deceived us.

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